Hola, amigos! A few weekends ago, we decided to take a short trip out to an old hacienda outside of town. Haciendas are one of the best tourist attractions in Mexico. Some of them are quite luxurious, and others are simply magical. If you want to know what in the world a hacienda is and what you can do there, keep reading por favor.
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There’s an old hacienda outside of the city where I live. There’s a few historical sites in my hometown in the State of Mexico province, and the hacienda is one of them. Although it’s a little run down, it’s still a place where families can enjoy themselves on the weekends.
What is a hacienda?
In Mexico, the term hacienda refers to an old land estate. For centuries, Mexican haciendas were productive estates- there were mining haciendas, plantation haciendas, factory haciendas. Some of them were quite large, and they were all owned by wealthy Spanish families.
Dozens, hundreds, or perhaps even thousands, of people could live and work at a hacienda. There was always a lavishly-built main house for the family, a chapel, warehouses and administrative buildings, as well as dwellings for the laborers and barns for animals. Large haciendas could be population centers all by themselves.
A Little Hacienda History
There’s an old hacienda that sits just a short drive outside of town. It’s called “Molino de Flores”, which roughly translates as “flower mill”. However, there’s a bit of a long story behind the name.
This hacienda was established in the 16th century by the Vazquez family during the early days of the Spanish conquest. There’s a stream that still runs through it, fed by springs from the nearby hills, and that’s probably why a large mill was set up at the hacienda from the very beginning.
During the 17th century, the hacienda passed into the hands of the Flores family and that’s how the place got its modern-day name. The hacienda remained productive for more than 300 hundred years, until the early 20th century.
In 1910, the Revolution broke out and hundreds of haciendas went up in flames all over Mexico. The haciendas were a part of the old system, where poor laborers were exploited by rich plantation owners. The old Flores hacienda was sacked, burned, and left in ruins.
After the Revolution, the government seized the old hacienda estates, divided them into small parcels of land, and handed them out to laborer families. The old Flores hacienda was also divided up, but 135 acres were set aside to create a national park, with the remains of the main house, the mill, and the chapel included.
Nowadays, Molino de Flores National Park is wildly popular with local families. You can have a picnic, go hiking, have a bite, ride horses, or attend one of the numerous little fairs and festivals that take place year-round. Of course, you can also visit the ghostly remains of the old hacienda buildings.
The Remarkable Magic Of An Old Mexican Hacienda
The buildings that remain from the Molino de Flores hacienda mostly date back to the 17th century. You can still see the entrance gate, the main house, the administrative buildings, and the old San Joaquin chapel.
The Cuxcahuaco stream still runs through the old hacienda grounds. Long ago, it used to move the old mill stones, and it also fed little fountains and canals that ran through lush gardens. The gardens are gone now, but the canals are still clearly visible.
According to legend, centuries ago, a Christ figure appeared on the rocks that line the stream. A chapel was built there, attached to the cliff that hangs over the water line. Pilgrims still arrive there every year to worship the Christ image on the chapel’s feast day, at the end of May.
Next to the river chapel is the family mausoleum. Inside are niches and crypts holding the remains of the members of the old hacienda-owner families. In the 17th century, the family heirs acquired the title of Marquess of Salvatierra. which meant the hacienda was now the property of royalty.
After the hacienda was left in ruins, the Cuxcahuaco stream was depleted and became so polluted it nearly dried out. Today, there’s an enviromental renewal project under way, carried out by the local government. Hopefully, the water will run clean and plentiful again.
After walking through the site, you can stop and have a bite at one of the numerous eateries there. On the menu is a host of local foods, such as quesadillas, tlacoyos, barbacoa, and stews accompanied by hand-made tortillas and spicy salsa. It’s quite a treat!
Hacienda Ghost Stories
Since the Molino de Flores hacienda is so old, it’s no wonder that ghosts are also rumored to abound there.
People say that a funeral procession can be seen marching towards the river chapel when there’s a full moon. Others claim to have seen a ghostly monk praying at the San Joaquin chapel, next to hacienda’s main building.
There’s also the rumor that if you stay behind late at night, you’ll be able to see a mysterious man ride on horseback through the hacienda gate. Or perhaps all you’ll only hear the sound of horse hooves thundering past the main building.
Personally, I don’t believe in ghosts at all, but I do admit the hacienda courtyard can look pretty creepy at night. In fact, the ambience is just right for local theater groups to hold some pretty amazing performances during the Day of the Dead festivities in November.
The crumbling ruins of the old 17th century buildings have attracted many artists, filmakers, painters, and photographers through the years. I think the fact that it’s so run down is precisely why the place is so appealing. Over the years, the Molino de Flores hacienda has appeared in fifty Mexican and foreign films, as well as in music videos. Even my brother-in-law’s fledgling rock band had a photo shoot there a couple of years ago.
This is a music video by the Mexican band Maná, filmed at the Molino de Flores hacienda. Can you spot the main buildings and the San Joaquin chapel?
This is the trailer of the 2012 film “The Walls Talk”, starring Kuno Becker. You can also see the chapel and the main buildings being used for a sequence.
When you come to Mexico, make sure you visit a hacienda. The best can be found in the provinces of Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Queretaro, San Luis Potosi, and Yucatan, all of which are safe to visit.
There are several haciendas that have been turned into luxurious hotels and spas, and others are historical sites that you can visit on day trip. You can check out a list of them here.
There’s a lot more to Mexico than beautiful beaches, so please don’t forget to step into a hacienda and feel the magic of old Mexico surround you!